SEATTLE -- The U.S. Senate is close to approving a bill that will support the outdoor places Washingtonians love visiting.
The Great American Outdoors Act would provide $6 billion over five years for maintenance on national parks and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington is a long-time supporter of the LWCF, which is used to open access to public lands, as well as for projects such as city parks and hiking trails. She says this bill ensures that money isn't siphoned off the fund, as in previous years.
"Very excited about that because it will mean a bump in the amount of money that will help states and counties and cities access open space for the general public," she states.
A full vote is likely to come next week. Funding in this bill comes from offshore oil and gas royalties.
Shawn Logan, mayor of the central Washington town of Othello, says LWCF funding is critical for small, rural communities that often can't afford to build parks and trails on their own. His town hopes to use funding from the program on a project called Pride Rock Park.
Logan's vision for the park is to make the outdoors accessible for everyone -- regardless of economic status.
"Even the poorest families can experience equity as they play and be part of something special, something exciting and at no cost," he states. "And when you come to Pride Rock playground, you don't have to be rich. Everyone gets the same opportunity."
Alfonso Orozco, volunteer and field experiences manager for the The Nature Conservancy of Washington, says LWCF has been integral in getting more Latino Washingtonians out into nature. He says permanently funding the program will help make outdoor spaces more inclusive for everyone.
"In Washington, people generally understand the benefits that nature can provide," he states. "And I think we need to do a much better job of making sure that nature and these outdoor spaces are available to the Latino community, but many other communities as well."
President Donald Trump says he will sign this legislation into law if Congress passes it.